prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Definition of prosecute

transitive verb

1 : to follow to the end : pursue until finished prosecute a war
2 : to engage in : perform
3a : to bring legal action against for redress or punishment of a crime or violation of law
b : to institute legal proceedings with reference to prosecute a claim

intransitive verb

: to institute and carry on a legal suit or prosecution

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Other Words from prosecute

prosecutable \ ˌprä-​sə-​ˈkyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prosecutable (audio) \ adjective

Prosecute vs. Persecute

Take care to distinguish between prosecuted and persecuted, although we sincerely hope that neither word applies to you. Persecute typically has a small range of meanings, such as “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict.” Although the word is occasionally found in dialectal use to mean “prosecute,” many usage guides consider this to be an error. Prosecute is generally found today in a legal context (“to bring legal action against for redress or punishment of a crime or violation of law”), although the word may also be used to mean “to follow to the end” or “to engage in.” If someone is prosecuted they are being tried in a court of law; if they are persecuted they are being targeted and harassed.

Examples of prosecute in a Sentence

The store's owner agreed not to prosecute if the boy returned the stolen goods. The case is being prosecuted by the assistant district attorney. She criticized the government for the way it has prosecuted the war.
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Recent Examples on the Web Accompanying Baker in the court last week was Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet, who helped prosecute the case. Niraj Warikoo, USA TODAY, "ICE arrests 90 more foreign students at fake university created by DHS in Michigan," 28 Nov. 2019 David Wallace-Wells pretty much ignores deniers, and instead critiques the overly cautious way scientists have prosecuted their case. Beth Py-lieberman, Smithsonian, "Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2019," 28 Nov. 2019 Esper told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that Trump gave him a direct order to drop disciplinary action against Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was prosecuted by the Navy and later acquitted of war crimes. NBC News, "Defense secretary says Trump ordered him to allow SEAL in war crimes case to keep status," 25 Nov. 2019 In some cases, perpetrators of violence against transgender people are not properly prosecuted, advocates say. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "At least 22 transgender people have been killed this year. But numbers don't tell the full story," 18 Nov. 2019 The commission said the DOJ ought to provide grants for cultural competency training and take the lead in detailing how many hate crimes are successfully prosecuted nationally. Rachel Glickhouse, ProPublica, "Police Don’t Do a Good Job Tracking Hate Crimes. A New Report Calls on Congress to Take Action.," 13 Nov. 2019 Improve coordination with prosecutors: The department should work with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office to ensure that gun offenders are consistently prosecuted for violations. Jeremy Gorner, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago Police Department told it must overhaul the way it investigates homicides to improve low clearance rate," 30 Oct. 2019 There were some ten million foreclosures, while not a single Wall Street CEO was prosecuted. Rhonda Lieberman, The New Republic, "Painting Over the Dirty Truth," 23 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, as cheating parents and sleazy middlemen are prosecuted for their misdeeds, the campus mandarins who turn a blind eye to or even facilitate admissions corruption have been given a pass. Hannah Warren, National Review, "Felicity Huffman Is Guilty, but So Are University Shakedown Artists," 18 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prosecute.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of prosecute

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for prosecute

Middle English, from Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue — more at pursue

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Time Traveler for prosecute

Time Traveler

The first known use of prosecute was in the 15th century

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Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Prosecute.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prosecute?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=prosec02. Accessed 8 December 2019.

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More Definitions for prosecute

prosecute

verb
How to pronounce prosecute (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prosecute

law : to hold a trial against a person who is accused of a crime to see if that person is guilty
: to work as a lawyer to try to prove a case against someone accused of a crime
formal : to continue to do (something) : to proceed with (something)

prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Kids Definition of prosecute

1 : to carry on a legal action against an accused person to prove his or her guilt
2 : to follow up to the end : keep at prosecute a war

prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Legal Definition of prosecute

transitive verb

1 : to institute and carry forward legal action against for redress or especially punishment of a crime
2 : to institute and carry on a lawsuit with reference to an action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interestFederal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 17(a)

intransitive verb

: to institute and carry on a civil or criminal action decided not to prosecute

Other Words from prosecute

prosecutable \ ˌprä-​si-​ˈkyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prosecutable (audio) \ adjective

History and Etymology for prosecute

Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue

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Comments on prosecute

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